Our media has been accepting more and more the idea that if a woman is fit, then she must have an unhealthy obsession with looks, weight, or exercise. This is even applied to women who merely express their desire to become fit – to lose a few extra pounds for their wedding (see yahoo article), or after a baby (you don’t need to lose that weight, silly, you’ll look more like a REAL mom if you keep the extra weight on). Body acceptance and confidence are crucial – no matter what size you wear, however, wanting to be fit, and lose flab or extra weight certainly does not qualify you as unhealthy.
The wedding weight article points out the ridiculous, and rightfully sometimes dangerous habits of women prepping for their wedding (dieting to extremes), but then goes further to question the psyche of women who long to look fit,
“And even more disturbing, she noted, “was hearing my married girlfriends reminisce longingly about their ‘wedding weight.’” Albert wanted to look amazing on her big day, she said, but not to the detriment of her psyche…” and “Bacon believes women who are driven to be extra-thin on their wedding days have other issues at play.”
Maybe the wording “extra-thin,” is trying to exclude women who just want to be thin and fit, however, what about how she criticizes her girlfriends for merely reminiscing about their wedding day weights? Is something really wrong with them, with their psyche, for wanting to look great? How is it disturbing to think back to when you were fit and thin, and long for that body?
This is where body acceptance and wanting to be fit and healthy seem to clash for our society. A woman that has gained weight and wants to go back to her old size is criticized or seen as “disturbing” for thinking anything is wrong at all.
I remember reading a study where a group of women in bikinis on a beach were playing in an add – many people (more than likely only feminist women) called out these women as being objectified sexually. Because they were fit… having fun, living life & playing on a beach… and in bikinis. Fitness + Happiness + Bikinis… hmmm how the hell does that objectify women? Is it because the bikinis show more than normal swimsuits? That would be my instinctive first guess, but guess what? That can’t be it….
Introduce the “Fatkini,” not my choice of wording, but the actual name given to a bikini that is for bigger sized women. All the love and positive comments for the pictures of women in these suits is in stark contrast to the criticism a woman gets when she’s fit and in a normal bikini. One is seen as sexual objectification, the other is a woman’s empowerment. This is just the way our society (or more accurately, the feminism prevalent in our society) is giving women more excuses for not feeling like they should be exercising, eating healthily, and taking care of their bodies. Or that if they are, something must be psychologically wrong – or their character is lacking – or they care more about their bodies than their children.
Do you remember the “Hot Facebook Mom,” Maria Kang, who posted her photo wearing a sports bra and shorts with her 3 children around her legs, saying “What’s Your Excuse?” The criticism she got (and even STILL gets) was out of proportion. And it was for the most part, only women who criticized her (surprise surprise).
Kang has been accused of being a “fat-shaming bully,” being a bad mother and wife based ONLY on how she looks, and received insurmountable hatred and criticism for daring to post a photo looking great, showing that she’s a mom, and asking others what their excuse is. Instead of feeling like a woman can look great even after having kids – a real empowerment for women, people seemed to feel they had a free pass to judge her on all aspects of her life.
Kathy Lee Gifford stated her thoughts on Kang, “Now maybe she didn’t do it in the proper way, but I think it snaps in somebody’s mind, ‘She’s right, I haven’t been working out, because I’d rather sit on the couch and watch reruns of ‘Will & Grace… I understand that, who doesn’t want to do that. But we make excuses for ourselves. And I think because we live in an entitled world we want what she has, but we don’t want to do the work to get it.”
Kang posted a reply (the first of many she felt she needed to post to explain her motive),
“#1 There’s an accountability issue. There’s a lot of people with a lot of excuses – not only did McDonald’s make people fat, apparently I did also!
“#2 There’s an entitlement issue – people believing that I can achieve something without doing anything (genetics). People don’t want to hear that it takes discipline, consistency and hard work to achieve a goal anymore.
“#3 There’s a body shaming issue (my body). Apparently we have forgotten how different kinds of health looks like (since being overweight has become normalized).”
“I think this word (bullying) is so overused that we forgot that a bully attacks others? I posted my picture on MY fitness-oriented page.”
My own opinion on Kang is that maybe it was indiscreet, however it is her job to motivate women towards fitness – she is a personal trainer and fitness blogger! Her openness at how any woman can work to look good stepped on a lot of women’s toes – but there is still a lot of truth in her image, this woman doesn’t make excuses for how her body looks.
I remember months after the controversy, they decided to do a reality TV version of women who had a problem with her photo, actually come in and switch lives with her. One woman was overweight, and kept her life incredibly busy – her excuse was that she simply didn’t have time to make the effort to work out. Kang followed through, lived in this woman’s life, and showed her ways to incorporate fitness into her daily routine. The other woman tried to live Kang’s life, and ended up not having enough energy, pouting on the sidelines, and finally acknowledging that she really just didn’t want to make the effort to be fit. She also acknowledged that what Kang was doing – helping and motivating other women to work out – was really a great thing.
She lost her judgment of her when she finally realized that being fit and healthy really was a benefit, and respected how much work and energy taking care of your body actually takes.
The woman pictured at the top of this post is Tracy Anderson, a fitness instructor that has been around for over 10 years, helping celebrities attain some of the fittest, most beautiful bodies imaginable. She recently made dvds of her special workouts available for the public, I was one of the consumers who bought her Metamorphosis, a series of dvds that help women based on what body type (where their bodies store fat) they have. Even though I’ve been a dancer and runner all my life, her workout was just different – it combined the best of cardio dance, barre ballet (Germany-based) methods, and strength training to whittle down my body into the best shape it has ever been. It felt incredible – and I loved being able to fit comfortably in my old clothes (which ironically was my main objective for losing the baby weight… I missed fitting into my old clothes).
I watched a show awhile ago, where the host criticized Tracy to her face – accusing her of making women feel bad about their bodies, of setting an unattainable – and even unhealthy body image for women to compare themselves to. It was insane, and I could see the confusion and embarrassment on her face as she struggled to defend WHY she was a fitness instructor, why she feels like her whole motive is to make women feel better about their bodies, and why she loves working in that field. It’s like the hostess expected Tracy to apologize for her work, for her body, for making women look great. Instead of celebrating the empowerment of looking great, the hostess almost tried to shame her for looking great.
The hostess then went with Tracy to one of her workouts, and the TV’s followed her all the way through. The TV hostess couldn’t make it through the workout, and stated it was crazy and just too hard.
These things are just interesting to me as I’m passively watching the media, exercising now and then, and eating & cooking healthy for my family. I can’t help but wonder why all the shaming and criticism of women who look great in a bikini, or who are fitness instructors trying to motivate and encourage other women for a living?
Have we become a society of jealousy and criticism? “If I don’t have that, then you can’t have it, or even want it, either!” Just some thoughts about feminism, women’s empowerment, and how I believe women shouldn’t have to apologize for looking and feeling amazing.